New service offers housing help for older people in Norfolk

Carer John Cook and his wife Maureen who has dementia.Photo by Simon Finlay.

Carer John Cook and his wife Maureen who has dementia.Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Moving home is considered one of the most stressful things to do in life, which is why a Norfolk charity is offering older people free advice and support about housing and care.

The Age UK Norfolk housing and care options service aims to help over-55s to find suitable accommodation or make adaptations to existing accommodation so that it is safe to live in.

The service supports a huge range of people, for example those who are homeless, needing housing when they leave prison, after discharge from hospital, or moving from living in a caravan or on a boat.

The service, run by Yvonne Costin, is not just about locating new accommodation, but also looks at the bigger picture such as benefits, GP surgery access and helping people to articulate their needs when applying for council housing.

Yvonne says her approach is to look at each client in a holistic way, and to then offer the best help and advice to meet their needs.

This could be referring people to Age UK Norfolk's benefits advice service, or carrying out home safety checks and risk assessments. For example, finding out if fire alarms have been recently checked, looking at home security, or just highlighting trip hazards such as trailing wires.

It could be suggesting that often-used items are removed from high cupboards to somewhere more accessible or putting in applications for home adaptations.

Most Read

She says that often people contact her following a bereavement because they think they are going to have to down-size now they are on their own.

But often she can help them to find ways to stay in their treasured home, for example helping them to employ a gardener because it has become too much work, and ensuring they have all the correct council tax and pensions benefits.

Yvonne says: 'After a bereavement people can find themselves suddenly having to take on the role of the other person, such as having to learn to cook and clean or maybe they have never switched on the washing machine before.

'All the while they are dealing with the bereavement and may have their own health issues to deal with too.'

She offers as much or as little help as people need and want, so it could be just a phone call and advice to help set someone on the right path.

For other more complex cases she visits regularly to support someone through a move.

Yvonne says: 'Families might ask me to work with elderly family members, but I won't work with anyone who doesn't want me to help. The individual involved has to give their consent and then how much help they want is up to them too.'

In a year, Yvonne has had 238 cases where she has helped people by providing relatively straight-forward advice, often over the telephone, and 137 more complex cases which have involved visits and ongoing support.

The project was funded for 18 months by the national charity Elderly Accommodation Counsel and is due to end in March, but Age UK Norfolk is keen to find ways to ensure it can continue after that date.

For more information on housing options, call 0300 500 1217 between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday, or visit• Caring for someone with dementia is a full-time role, as former publican John Cook knows.

The 74-year-old has been looking after his wife Maureen for the past decade, and knew that it would only get harder for him to continue to care in their Heartsease home.

He was referred to Age UK Norfolk's housing and care options service as he already receives help from the charity in his caring role.

John says he was considering moving to Suffolk to be closer to his son, but Yvonne helped him to consider all the practicalities involved in having to build up new support networks in a new place and he in the end he decided to stay in the Norwich area.

He is hoping to move to a two-bedroom bungalow in New Costessey in the coming weeks.

John says: 'Yvonne is not one that tells you what to do. She comes up with suggestions. It was niggling me that if we went to Suffolk we would have to start all over again and that's going to be quite unsettling for Maureen.

'Yvonne has been very supportive and I'm just in the process of finalising exchange of contracts. When that's done she'll come back in with a list of the things we need to sort for the move. She's been brilliant.'

Yvonne has helped John to consider how he can make their new home as familiar as possible for Maureen, by placing furniture in similar places and by putting up familiar pictures and the plan is to do it all in a day so it will minimise disruption.

John jokes this will be the couple's 10th house move together, and the only one in which he's had a say, but adds: 'The hardest bit to me is not being able to talk to Maureen about anything.

'I keep showing her the picture of the bungalow but until you exchange contracts you don't know if it's definite or not.'